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The Honorable Ron Kirk

Former Mayor of Dallas Ron Kirk was born in Austin, Texas on June 27, 1954. While attending John H. Reagan High School, Kirk was elected president of the student body. He also played basketball and traveled in Europe with the school choir. Upon graduation in 1972, Kirk enrolled in Austin College, where he earned his B.A. degree in 1976 with honors in political science and sociology. From there, he went on to earn his J.D. degree from the University of Texas School of Law in Austin.

Kirk then moved to Dallas and began practicing law with the firm of Bennett & Cain. In 1981, he left private practice and went to work for then Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen. When Bentsen was appointed U.S. Secretary of the Treasury by President Bill Clinton, Kirk accompanied him to Washington, D.C. In 1994, he left Washington and returned to his native Texas, where he became Secretary of State under Texas governor Ann Richards. The following year, at the urging of the Dallas business community, Kirk ran for mayor of Dallas, and won sixty-two percent of the vote, becoming the first African American mayor of Dallas, and of any major Texas city. As mayor, Kirk gained a reputation for building coalitions. He also instituted the “Dallas Plan,” his vision for the City of Dallas. Kirk was widely credited with jump-starting the city’s economy. In 1999, Kirk was reelected in a landslide election, winning seventy-four percent of the vote. He stepped down as mayor in 2001 and ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Phil Gramm. Kirk returned to private practice, joining the firm of Gardere Wynne Sewell, where he served as a partner. In 2009, President Barack Obama appointed Kirk as U.S. Trade Representative.

Kirk remains active in the community, as former president of the Dallas Zoological Society and as chair of the South Dallas/Fair Park Trust Fund Advisory Board. He also serves as a trustee of Austin College, as well as on the board of directors for Brinker International, Dean Foods and PetSmart.

Kirk and his wife, Matrice Ellis-Kirk, have two daughters.

Kirk was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 25, 2004.

Accession Number

A2004.214

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/25/2004

Last Name

Kirk

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Blackshear Elementary Fine Arts Academy

University Junior High School

Pearce Junior High

Austin College

Reagan Early College High School

Speakers Bureau

Yes

First Name

Ronald

Birth City, State, Country

Austin

HM ID

KIR02

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $5,000 - $10,000

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere Near Water

Favorite Quote

If You Find Yourself In A Hole, Stop Digging.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Texas

Interview Description
Birth Date

6/27/1954

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Dallas

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Short Description

Mayor The Honorable Ron Kirk (1954 - ) was the first African American mayor of Dallas, Texas, served as the Texas Secretary of State and was appointed U.S. Trade Representative by President Barack Obama.

Employment

Bennett & Cain

Office of Senator Lloyd Bentsen

State of Texas

City of Dallas, Texas

Gardere, Wynne and Sewell

United States Government

City of Dallas

Johnson & Gibbs

Texas State Purchasing and General Services Commission

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Ron Kirk's interview, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Slating of The Honorable Ron Kirk's interview, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Ron Kirk lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Ron Kirk describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Ron Kirk talks about his mother's childhood in Manor, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Ron Kirk talks about his paternal great-grandfather who was a Buffalo Soldier

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Ron Kirk talks about his parents' home and work lives

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Ron Kirk recalls how his father became the first African American postal clerk in Austin, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Ron Kirk lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable Ron Kirk describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - The Honorable Ron Kirk explains discriminatory measures that prevented African American voting in the South

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Ron Kirk recalls civil rights struggles in Austin, Texas in the 1950s and 1960s

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Ron Kirk remembers his childhood neighborhood of East Austin in Austin, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Ron Kirk describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood in Austin, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Ron Kirk talks about his family church in Austin, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Ron Kirk recalls his childhood love of the outdoors

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Ron Kirk describes his school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Ron Kirk remembers inspiring teachers from his schooldays in Austin, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Ron Kirk describes his aspiration to be a lawyer

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Ron Kirk remembers his extracurricular activities at John H. Reagan High School in Austin, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Ron Kirk recalls tribulations he faced attending a newly integrated high school in Austin, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Ron Kirk remembers his acquaintance with radical politics through the University of Texas in Austin, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Ron Kirk recalls childhood influences on his political consciousness

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Ron Kirk remembers his decision to attend Austin College in Sherman, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Ron Kirk lists professors who influenced him at Austin College in Sherman, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Ron Kirk reflects upon his experience at Austin College in Sherman, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Ron Kirk remembers his decision to take time off from Austin College in Sherman, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - The Honorable Ron Kirk talks about attending University of Texas at Austin School of Law in Austin, Texas

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Ron Kirk remembers Charles Alan Wright and the Legal Eagles at University of Texas at Austin School of Law in Austin, Texas

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Ron Kirk talks about clerking at Spivey & Grigg in Austin, Texas as a law student

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Ron Kirk remembers learning to be a trial lawyer in Dallas, Texas in 1979

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Ron Kirk recalls his decision to transition from trial lawyer to politician

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Ron Kirk recalls his initial experiences upon moving to Washington, D.C. in 1981

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Ron Kirk describes his unique position as an African American defense staffer

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Ron Kirk recalls cooperation between Democrats and Republicans in the 1980s

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable Ron Kirk talks about his return to Texas as chief lobbyist for the City of Dallas in 1983

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - The Honorable Ron Kirk recalls the increasing diversity of Dallas, Texas politics when he became city lobbyist

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - The Honorable Ron Kirk remembers significant events from his time as lobbyist for the City of Dallas, Texas

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Ron Kirk remembers leaving the City of Dallas, Texas government to return to private law practice

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable Ron Kirk explains how he was appointed secretary of state for Texas

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable Ron Kirk remembers highlights of his Texas secretary of state term

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable Ron Kirk speculates on Katherine Harris' role in the 2000 presidential election

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable Ron Kirk reflects on Ann Richards' loss of the 1994 gubernatorial election to George Walker Bush

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable Ron Kirk recounts his election as mayor of Dallas, Texas

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable Ron Kirk recalls his tenure as mayor of Dallas, Texas

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable Ron Kirk talks about campaigning in a multi-ethnic city

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - The Honorable Ron Kirk talks about governing a multi-ethnic Dallas, Texas

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - The Honorable Ron Kirk reflects upon his accomplishments as mayor of Dallas, Texas, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - The Honorable Ron Kirk reflects upon his accomplishments as mayor of Dallas, Texas, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - The Honorable Ron Kirk recalls his decision to run for United States Senate

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - The Honorable Ron Kirk reflects upon losing his United States Senate campaign

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - The Honorable Ron Kirk talks about his career plans

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - The Honorable Ron Kirk describes his hopes for the African American community, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - The Honorable Ron Kirk describes his hopes for the African American community, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - The Honorable Ron Kirk remembers an important encounter with a constituent during his mayoral campaign in Dallas, Texas

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - The Honorable Ron Kirk reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - The Honorable Ron Kirk describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - The Honorable Ron Kirk reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - The Honorable Ron Kirk narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

1$3

DATitle
The Honorable Ron Kirk remembers Charles Alan Wright and the Legal Eagles at University of Texas at Austin School of Law in Austin, Texas
The Honorable Ron Kirk remembers highlights of his Texas secretary of state term
Transcript
Any professors in law school that stand out that you--?$$Boy, it's embarrassing. Yeah, I mean there were some great, great professors at our law school. [W.] Page Keeton was the dean of our law school, and still taught quite a bit, but Charles Alan Wright, who passed away just a couple of years ago was, you know, widely regarded in--among the community as one of the, the two or three greatest constitutional scholars and legal minds of his generation, and he taught con [constitutional] law at the University of Texas [at Austin School of Law, Austin, Texas], and I was privileged to be able to, you know, kind of get the lottery to be in his constitutional law section. But aside from his love of the law, Charlie, as he allowed a few of us to call him, had a maniacal love affair with football and touch football, and Charlie Wright sponsored a football team called Legal Eagles that played in the intramural football league, and part of the lore that grew up around University of Texas--you know, law school admissions process was that Charlie Wright, because of his stature at the school and the amount of money he brought in, went through all the admissions policies and picked out all the athletes and got 'em in and then made 'em be on the Legal Eagles. Now, if you'd a seen the collection (laughter) everywhere, you'd know that was true. But I not only had the privilege of taking classes from him, but I also was recruited by a friend of mine that I had met when I worked on the [Texas state] constitutional convention to play on the Legal Eagles and became--I think I was the first black captain of the Legal Eagles.$$Okay.$$But he was a great friend.$What was that experience like? I mean what were the highlights (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Wonderful. I mean you know, the secretary of state is technically, in most states, you know, he's the chief sort of corresponding record keeper for the state. You do everything from maintain corporate records and that, but as Kathleen Harris [sic. Katherine Harris], even though she shouldn't have, has probably taught America better than anything, we run elections. And some states like your state, they issue license plates and considering the number of secretary of states y'all have locked up for stealing license plates money, I guess I'm glad I didn't have that (laughter) opportunity here in Texas. But the biggest thing is we're the record keeper and we run the elections. But for me personally, I guess everything for me has such a personal spin, there just couldn't have been a finer moment for me than having been born in Austin [Texas], grown up playing on the playgrounds of our [Texas] State Capitol, and not being able to come inside to use the bathroom or to get a drink a water. And watching my parents [Willie Jones Kirk and Lee Kirk, Sr.] have to struggle to fight to get the right to vote without paying a poll tax--there's just not been a more personally emotional or rewarding moment for me than to have my mother live long enough to stand there and hold the Bible for me while [Governor] Ann Richards swore me in as secretary of state. And unfortunately, my father had died while I--right after I moved to Washington [D.C.]; he passed away in 1982. But that was just a--to me, just a completion of a circle, and kind of closing that chapter on the state's kind of ugly history (laughter) of discrimination which, now, we're fighting to try to keep closed, in terms of making sure that our right to vote isn't abridged.$$Now, is there a highlight to your term of service as secretary of state?$$Well, I mean, I did a couple of things personally. I helped to modernize some of our election systems, but I mean, I was there for nine months, but I was there during an election year. I was most--I mean, I guess the highlight was a negative highlight in that I had presided over the election in which Governor Richards was defeated, you know, by George [Walker] Bush, which was (laughter) not my thing. I mean, I guess I can be proud in my own sense of ethics that I conducted an election the way a secretary of state should, and I didn't get involved in a partisan way that Kathleen Harris did, I think, in Florida, in a subsequent presidential race. But I think I'm proudest of the fact that I actually made some substantive changes in personnel and helped to modernize some of the features of our elections office, and that we had an election in '94 [1994] that went out pretty much without a hiccup and without a lot of complaints from either the Democratic or the Republican Party.